He's just not that into you.

I'm turning my blog into a Dear Tango-Abby for just a moment. This kind of question has turned up on other blogs and forums, so I thought I'd address it more thoroughly here. The usual caveat applies - what follows is my opinion from my observations, and may or may not be relevant in other tango communities. YMMV.

From my email . . .

"There's a leader that I really like, but he's never asked me to dance. Is it okay to ask him why?"

Short answer: No.

Much longer answer: There might be an opportunity to approach him in a constructive way during practica or a class that you both attend, to simply ask if you might practice sometime on whatever it is you or he is working in class/practica. And then leave it to him. You said in another part of the email that you've tried the casual small talk at the snack table and cabeceo'ing him - so beyond that, depending on the preferences in your community, I would leave it at that.

If, however, it's quite common for ladies to ask gentlemen to dance (and it's a successful practice) then you can give it a try. But don't simply ask him why he hasn't asked you - stay in the present. And if he does turn you down when you ask, then politely say, "all right then, maybe another time" smile and walk away. Don't ask him why, just smile politely and move on. You can, if you know some of the followers he does ask to dance, talk to them casually about how he likes to dance and that sort of thing. That kind of conversation can give you some insight. But just think if the situation were reversed how you might feel if someone approached you that way. Depending on who it was and the situation - it could be very uncomfortable for both of you. The codigos serve to avoid hurt feelings and embarrassment of just this kind.

It's hard not knowing why someone seems to avoid dancing with you. There are leaders in my community that have never asked me to dance, or almost worse, have danced with me once months ago and never asked again. I've cabeceo'd and made small talk, but no dice. Granted, for several months when I started I stumbled and apologized through every tanda. So my first thought is they think I'm a bad dancer. Or I said something wrong - I've done that often enough. Or they don't like something I do, or the way I dress, or... whatever. A girl can make herself crazy wondering about it. The truth is it may have nothing to do with something we've done or how we're dancing. It's hard but try not to spend so much time wondering what's wrong - and focus on the leaders that do want to dance with you. We're there for them - for the leaders who are asking.

My lesson learned...

One night an out-of-town dancer I admire, who comes to Austin very rarely, turned up at the milonga I was attending. We had danced once or twice - but of course I was very green at the time. Clumsy, apologetic, nervous. Twice I tried the cabeceo and twice he looked at me, and then turned away. 'Nuff said. Or rather, not said. It stung. A lot.

While I was nursing my hurt pride, I failed to notice that there were gentlemen present who did want to dance with me and I wasn't meeting their eyes. I was too busy second guessing myself. I lost almost an hour of the milonga licking my wounds. And while I was sitting there not dancing, leaders I love to dance with were wondering why I wasn't meeting their cabeceo.

Stay in the moment. Give your attention, effort and energy to the leaders who do want to dance with you. That's what we're there for.

That's my two cents...


Keno said...

Well Miss Tango-Addy, I always love the way you put things. So elegant, so sweet, and so simple. I thought I would put my view in from my point of view from the lead. I was guilty of dancing with one follow and then not dancing again with her for about 3 months. One day I did receive her cabeceo and I got up and danced with her. What a great surprise I had. I realized that I had missed a wonderful person to dance with by not seeing how wonderful she really was to dance with. So now I really try to find the best in all the people I dance with.

Sometimes I see follows just sitting there with the deer in the headlights looks of dance with me please, but not really looking at you. If you really look you will see men with the same look. Then you have the people who never use a cabeceo or if they do only have the cabeceo last for a mere 1.2 nano sec and believe that is it. Sometime guys need a little longer or a hit on the head to dance with you. Ask at a practica or a class and then see where it goes from there. Now I try to really see who I dance with before and during.
Best of Luck Keno

Anonymous said...

Look at it like this. One day you are going to be better than them. By the time you realise this, you won't have time to wonder if they want to dance with you or not because the question you will be asking yourself is who YOU want to be dancing with and you will find that there won't be that many.

me said...


There are times when a follower starts a conversation with me, and I just know she is talking to me only because she is interested in dancing. I don't know why, but that's a real turn-off. On the other hand, when a follower talks to me because she feels social, and wants to have a conversation with me, without agenda, I will remember that, and her too.

There were a few times when a follower actually asked that question, to me. Very awkward. Also, unlikely that this person will be on my active list in the future...

AlexTangoFuego said...

I would have to agree with me.

Directly asking "why don't you ever ask me to dance?" is dealing the death blow. There's something down in the primordial ooze/soup...can't delve into it just now, but it's definitely there for us neanderthals. Perhaps it short circuits the "fight or flight" response somehow. (Grin)

My two cents are don't over-think, don't over-analyze, don't take anything personally (read The Four Agreements), and come up and introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Some of us leaders are shy. Although me's comments do apply somewhat - some conversations (especially at festivals) can seem superficial/staged.

Oh, and go ahead and ask. It's extremely rare that I (and I assume most leades) will refuse an invitation from a woman.

Also, speaking for myself, some of us (or is it we?) leaders are simply oblivious. I don't dance with way too many followers for no good reason(s). Double negative intended. I'll be driving home after a milonga and think, "Damn! I forgot to dance with Jane, and Tammy, and Sue, and..."

And lastly, the wingman (wingwoman) technique works too - either a direct introduction, or an indirect inference/comment - "my friend so-and-so hasn't been getting many dances, I'm sure she'd love it if you asked her..."

Ya'll get my drift...I suppose more than two cents...more like fifteen...three round nickels...

Parting thought...I'm prone to close embrace...so if I never see a woman dancing close embrace with any other leaders...?

Laelia said...

Hi Mari,

There's something rather empowering about your 'smile and move on' philosophy. Thanks for sharing this post - it goes right to the heart of my beginner's anxiety which, as you point out, could come between me and a whole lotta fun if not kept in check.


Mark Word said...

Tangueros (and tangueras) all have friends they dance with first or even more than one tanda. The night is not long enough. I agree asking "why" is full of problems and maybe hurt. An Internet philosopher once said, "It is none of your business what others think about you!" If a tanguero makes it his business to tell you or you make it your business to find out, then danger follows (for the ego). But the PROCESS of friendship and having a teacher allows us to find out these things. I DID ask a tanguera (via a private Facebook message), and I found out WONDERFUL information, but you'll have to visit my blog in about a week to get that story. :-)

Golondrina said...

Good post Mari. Its highlighted something thats been playing on my mind for a while (and have now posted about).

IMO, don't ask, you probably don't want to know why and probably won't agree. I'm sure I've got quite subjective reasons for not dancing more with certain people - bad but then thats human nature. Acept its not going to happen and move on.